The JoBlo Original video covering Dawn of the Dead‘s physical media and digital releases was Written by Paul Bookstaber, Edited by Lance Vlcek, and Narrated by Kier Gomes.
Would it be a total buzz kill to find out one day, when you decide to open your streaming service and see some of your own digital copies gone in an instant? What if you didn’t have the chance to pick up a physical copy as backup, when it was put on store shelves at your local retailer months or years prior? Chances are, it’s happening much more frequently and that’s a sad, hard pill to swallow. As an avid film collector and movie junkie, I always preorder a steelbook of my favorite films that I need to obtain for my own volition, but it seems that window is getting much harder as well – thanks Best Buy for your low inventory of Oppenheimer steelbooks, what the hell is the matter with you? Today, let’s talk about a film that has disappeared in the ether when it comes to physical and digital release. A movie so prevalent in zombie lore that you may scratch your head wondering how this came to be? When you think of Damon Lindelof’s HBO hit series, The Leftovers, you think of “The Departure.” Those 2% that left the world in an instant, without a trace, loved ones gone in the blink of an eye. Well, let’s replace human lives for Blu-rays and digital copies of George A. Romero’s 1978 zombie epic, Dawn of the Dead.
Dawn is a zombie film so good, cemented in time, dealing with countless censorship violations abroad due to its gore-filled nature. You can’t help but be in total shock of its disappearance. And when you say, “woah, woah I can just get a quick copy of it on Youtube to watch,” that doesn’t count because a rip of the film can lose the actual intended quality and experience put on disc or digital streaming in exchange for a horrible aspect ratio on Youtube’s viewing browser. Or you can say, “Well, let me just watch Zack Snyder’s, 2004 Dawn of the Dead.” That’s great and all, but it doesn’t hold a candle, or in better terms, guts to the original. It also deviates a whole lot from its 1978 counterpart, especially in the whole zombie chase component. So nice swing and a miss there.
Now even though there are region-free discs available, why is it so hard to obtain a physical copy today through its primary licensor or film distributor? Let me take you back to simpler times when George A Romero’s Dawn of the Dead was easily accessible to the masses. Its popularity ran deep within the roots of horror movie cinema, coming hot off the heels of Romero’s first installment, Night of the Living Dead, which is attainable to watch digitally or in physical release, along with George’s other zombie films like Day of the Dead and Land of the Dead, but why not Dawn? Surely, there are possibilities of getting an updated physical release by Scream/Shout Factory, or another disc manufacturer down the road, right? There have been multiple ways to purchase Dawn of the Dead back in the day either by VHS, laserdisc, and DVD, but that all seemed to fade rather quickly due to Dawn’s messy legalities and distribution rights that were unspooled. Although there is no concrete answer as to why we can’t find physical and digital copies at our local retailer or streaming apps, let us go down that rabbit hole and get some much-needed clues. I just wish everyone got their Anchor Bay Limited Edition version some time ago to avoid the heartache and sorrows that’s about to unfold with all the behind-the-scenes politics.
Dawn of the Dead was funded by Italian horror directing legend, Dario Argento, when Romero’s production group Laurel Group Production, couldn’t find the necessary funds within the United States prior to yelling action. This resulted in a Frankenstein-monster styled release of Dawn of the Dead through Romero’s eyes, and the second version of Dawn of the Dead, retitled and edited differently called Zombi, through the eyes of Argento which was released internationally. This also required Dario Argento to file for foreign distribution rights in the process which can have legal ties with the Laurel Group and its producer, Richard P. Rubenstein. We’ll get to him next.
It’s been said that producer, Mr. Richard P. Rubenstein cut all of Dawn’s physical and digital releases due to his losses in the 3D version of Dawn that has barely seen the light of day, a loss of a few million. He also added exuberant fees to the home media licensing that Dawn needs for it to hit store shelves or streaming services again so that you, yourself could obtain a copy if it came to it. Call it bitter and unreasonable actions due to one man’s spite, or so it seems. Dawn of the Dead has seen its time in the sun, which has been released in multiple formats throughout the years. I possess the director’s cut double decker VHS back in the 90s that was released as well as the Anchor Bay edition. Dawn of the Dead is a crowning achievement due to its practical effects, its demanding scope, excellent direction by Romero, and quite an excellent cast, most notably Ken Foree. For a film done in 1978 that still stands the test of time is an accomplishment in itself.
If you’re in quite the pickle when it comes to watching Dawn of the Dead, there are quite a few ways into trying to attain it. This seems like its unfolding into a turbo man, Wonka golden ticket, situation, but try Ebay or Amazon, they still have availability for you to obtain a copy. You need to realize what the value is to you when it comes to needing the physical copy. One man’s treasure might mean a different sort of worth to another. But you might get a deal when it’s all said and done. It might even entail driving around several entertainment retailers and getting lucky with a lone copy submerged deep within shelving or bargain bins (It’s happened to me). And like I stated above, you can purchase a region-free Korean-import disc through Amazon, but that may come with limitations. Unfortunately for digital, there is no solution, and you may have to just wait, even if that means until you’re old and frail, let’s hope not, but invest in physical. Oppenheimer director Christopher Nolan stresses the importance of physical media and how it’s a safeguard from digital streamers selecting what stays, and what goes, on a timely basis, neglecting you of your entertainment experience. Let’s just hope a solution is reached in the not-too-distant future and we can enjoy the flesh chomping, intestine ripping, zombie mayhem at home whether it be in physical media or digital form.